Wikipedia:Arbitrating on content

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

As a result of the underlying principle justifying the Arbitration Committee's existence, the ArbCom is also justified to arbitrate on content matters.

I speak of course of consensus, which governs every action taken on Wikipedia. This is extended to actions taken by fiat, since there is a consensus that some individuals (such as the remaining co-founder of Wikipedia, or the Wikimedia Foundation's legal counsel) have the authority to impose rules and regulations on their own whim. Based on this principle, there are three relevant points:

  • The Arbitration Committee has the authority to issue binding solutions to resolve disputes between editors.[1]
  • A consensus forms on articles when changes that are made stay intact. When there is controversy over an edit, consensus can form on the talk page.[2]
  • Consensus can change.

Because of these points, in the event that an edit war ensues on an article and talk page discussions prove fruitless, then it can be said that there is no consensus on the article. Once the rest of the dispute resolution process has been exhausted, then the time comes for the last resort: ArbCom, the only binding dispute resolution authority that exists on Wikipedia. The fact that the dispute has reached this stage indicates that there is no hope in the users solving the argument themselves, and so they must resort to appealing before an impartial group which can devise compromise solutions and then impose them. It is therefore the ArbCom's responsibility to enforce existing article policies and resolve the dispute at hand.

A widely perceived issue with arbitrating on content is that ArbCom is no suitable replacement for a consensus at articles. But in the event that there is no existing consensus for ArbCom to override, coupled with the fact that ArbCom has a mandate to be the final authority in disputes, an ArbCom content ruling is appropriate in lieu of consensus as long as it complies with existing editorial policy. Note that this is merely in lieu of consensus instead of a replacement for consensus. The moment that an editorial consensus is achieved on an article, this means that the consensus has changed. As new consensus takes precedent over old consensus by the changing nature of consensus, the ArbCom's content ruling is no longer in effect. It would also no longer be necessary, as ArbCom is not needed in situations where there is a consensus.

Why this is a good idea[edit]

Gdansk. Danzig. Macedonia. Too many cases have pursued the troublesome users without considering the root of the problem: that there is a longstanding editorial dispute. By only focusing on problematic users, the war does not end; only the players get removed. If the Arbitration Committee wishes to reduce its workload while increasing its efficacy at resolving disputes, it must consider the editorial factor as well as the behavioral factor.


  1. ^ Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee as of 02:25, June 11, 2009: "It has the authority to impose binding solutions to disputes between editors."
  2. ^ Wikipedia:Consensus as of 15:35, June 1, 2009